Morphological knowledge in language minority children compared with monolingual children: A meta-analysis

Morphological knowledge in language minority children compared with monolingual children: A meta-analysis

First Author: Siri S. Bratlie -- Department of Special Needs Education, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Oslo
Additional authors/chairs: 
Ellen Irén Brinchmann; Monica Melby-Lervåg; Janne von Koss Torkildsen
Keywords: Morphological knowledge, Minority learners, Meta-analysis, Bilingualism, language proficiency
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose
Morphological knowledge links meaning and form in written and oral language, hence contributing to language comprehension and literacy skills. Here we investigate differences in morphological knowledge between language minority (LMI) and language majority (LMA) children, and moderators that might be related to the size of these differences. To our knowledge, this is the first systematic meta- analytic review of its kind (preregistered in PROSPERO 23.02.2017).

Method
The systematic search was done in nine databases, in reference lists, selected journals and through experts in the field. Studies were included if they reported measures of morphological knowledge for LMI and LMA children.

Results
Thirty-six studies (69 independent comparisons) met the inclusion criteria. Compared with LMA children, LMI children display small deficits in compounding knowledge (d=-0.366, k=11), moderate deficits in derivational knowledge (d=0.504, k=33) and large deficits in inflectional knowledge (d=-1.001, k=26). The size of the group differences in vocabulary was related to the size of the group differences in compounding-, inflectional- and derivational knowledge. Syntactic knowledge explained variance in inflectional- and derivational knowledge. Group differences in nonverbal IQ were related to group differences in compounding- and derivational knowledge.

Conclusions
These findings suggest that there are group differences in morphological knowledge between LMI and LMA children. The size of these group differences varies with morphological domain. Taken together with findings suggesting positive effects of morphological training on other aspects of language in LMI children, findings of the present study suggest that morphology should be considered when designing language interventions for this group.